Westfield City Council members must now disclose whether they’ve received $1,000 or more in campaign contributions from a donor before they vote or take any action on a project originated by that donor.
After council members and council attorneys debated the legality of such a resolution, the Westfield City Council voted 5-2 Monday to approve the resolution, which is aimed at establishing an additional layer of transparency.
The new rule applies to both direct and in-kind donations given by an individual, company or groups of companies with common corporate officers.
Council member Scott Frei said he didn’t think the resolution would hinder campaign fundraising.
“This does not limit in any way, shape or form the amount of money you can take from anyone,” Frei said.
Jake Gilbert and Scott Willis were the lone council members to vote against the resolution. Gilbert said the city already has a hard enough time getting people to run for office without making the process more cumbersome with additional requirements.
“It’s on the form. I have nothing to hide because we can’t hide it as-is,” Gilbert said. “The public branding and Scarlet Letter part of it, I don’t understand.”
Anne Hensley Poindexter, the council’s attorney, said the resolution establishes “house rules” that do not attempt to change election laws already established by the federal and state government. Manny Herceg, Westfield’s city attorney, challenged that assessment. He said the new rule is illegal because it seeks to regulate something that’s already wholly regulated by the state.
“The state occupies this area completely,” Herceg said. “Whether or not you’re changing it is irrelevant.”
The council briefly considered tabling the matter before voting on it. Council President Mike Johns said the resolution is meant to reflect the council’s desire to be more transparent than other city councils and has been in the works since the current council took office.
“This is something we’ve discussed as a council for a year and a half,” Johns said. “This is not a law that we’re speaking about; this is a decision about how we want to run our house.”